I recently attended a FEM (Forum for Expatriate Management) event in Zurich. At the after show apéro I had the chance to exchange with the head of global mobility of a major business and technology consulting firm. The conversation rapidly turned around compliance and tracking. My poor counterpart complained that immigration, taxation and social security rules had reach an ever-high complexity. While requirements continued to sharpen, his own traveling and mobile population (80% of the total workforce of his company) developed in the exactly opposite direction. Those talented, young, dynamic and expensive talents under his team’s responsibility, proved to be less and less controllable. He gave the “simplified” example of a young Brazilian consultant. Although the employee had a working contract in Switzerland, he was constantly enrolled in projects around the globe for longer or shorter periods. The consultant also regularly travelled to his relative’s place in the UK, but worked and spend free time with his girlfriend in her home-country Poland.
The above certainly looks familiar to many of our readers. It also demonstrates how difficult it is for global companies to keep track on their employee’s movements. Tax authorities become increasingly attentive to the topic, immigration and visa requirements are sharpened, and companies are ever more hold responsible for non-compliance of their employees. Employees don’t fit in traditional mobility boxes (such as business trip, assignment, commuter…) anymore. Business and private mobility has now merged, talents work from where they want, when they want, from who they want. The UBERisation of the world, the access to technology even in remote places, cheap travel possibilities have changed the definition of the workplace.
Travel tracking in the business travel environment
In response to the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, security, software and assistance companies introduced “travel tracking” as a service some 15 years ago, mainly towards the corporate business travel environment. These typically GDS (Global Distribution System) and PNR (Passenger Name Record) based systems have since increased their capabilities utilising technical progress, such as interactive mapping, GPS localisation, risk based communication and much more. Ijet’s worldcue, International SOS’s TravelTracker, Anvil Group’s tracker and
tracking tool are constantly increasing their reach to support corporate travellers.
All the above mentioned enable corporates to keep track of their global traveller’s footprint. In combination with individual or mass communication tools such as Everbridge, subscribers of these tools communicate in real time with their travellers. It is today recognized that GDS based tracking and risk based communication is Duty of Care best practise. However, none of the traditional providers pay much attention to the challenges of tax and immigration compliance.
Tracking - a new phenomenon in the mobility field
With more responsibility, outside of the typical historical “expatriate” world, mobility departments are increasingly in search of technical solutions to track, report and respond on their mobile workforce. Some 10 years after the travel industry, mobility and assignee management providers are now introducing tracking solution trying to go beyond the offering of those traditional security companies. Other than those, their focus is on immigration and tax compliance to reduce reputational risk, employment law risk, risk of prosecution and risks linked to employee dissatisfaction. A pioneer in the field is Santa Fee Relocation with its brand new “Business Travel Tracker”. Cartus, another mobility giant has introduced a so called “days-in-country-tracking-service” which utilises GDS data directly from travel agents. Cartus claims to provide clients with monthly compliance reports. Another player in the field is SIRVA Worldwide Moving and Relocation. Their Traveler360 program for now looks at tax compliance only and leaves apart immigration and Duty of Care. They also seem to be one the few not relying on Travel agent GDS data, but prefer manual imports.
Last but not least the BIG4's around EY, KPMG and PwC have tax and immigration compliance tracking systems for assignees and extended Business Travelers (EBT) in place. They tend to be very customized and often come along at higher costs.
While business travel and corporate mobility professionals agree on the need for tracking, both continue to work in silo’s. Is that still accurate? Accurate in a world where the workplace is mobile, where employees consider themselves as global citizens, where information flows around the globe in seconds, where risks are considered part of the business, where governments become more attentive, where business is done even in challenging environments and where costs drive success?
I fully agree with Chris Debner - a veritable mobility expert – who sees a natural fit between mobility and corporate travel. Chris believes in a future of cooperation of booth to avoid double spending’s and enhance productivity. End to end integration is a key element of employee mobility and tracking. To be watched when providers will recognize this and start developing joint solutions to travel and mobility.